Wednesday 12 June 2024

labyrinth (11. 622)

Earthmoving equipment for the construction of a new airport in northwest Crete, to replace the current second largest one in Heraklion, has revealed a monumental ancient circular structure from the Minoan Era (see previously here and here), consisting of eight concentric stone rings with a vault in the centre, reminiscent of a conical, beehive tomb, and radial walls that cross the rings. Excavations continue on the multicursal, branching Bronze Age site—and designated in the building plans as the location of the new airport’s radar array, a new place will be found.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

solvitur ambulando (11. 620)

The paradoxes of ancient Greek philosopher Zeno, as recorded by Aristotle’s Physics, argues motion is illusionary with the dichotomy that a traveler must arrive at the half-way point before reaching the goal, and before getting to the mid-stage, must necessarily travel a quarter and before that an eighth, a sixteenth, a thirty-second, a sixty-fourth and so on. Not finding the sum that all these fractional steps forwards didn’t complete the journey wasn’t Zeno’s objection but rather how to finish an infinite—though infinitesimal—number of tasks. Fellow philosopher and noted Cynic Diogenes, simply got up and left the conversation to demonstrate the contrary after hearing this line of reasoning. Attributed later to Saint Augustine, the Latin phrase “it is solved by walking” from this account, has become a catch-all directing one to answer practical problems with practical rejoiners—to walk it off as the sovereign remedy for every travail.

Monday 27 May 2024

priams schatz (11. 586)

Discovered on this day in 1873, the horde of gold treasure and other artefacts excavated at the site of modern day Hisarlฤฑk by Heinrich Schliemann (see previously) and his team. Though in his zeal to associate the treasure with the figure of the Homeric king, the archeologists were off by centuries in the stratification of this Bronze Age dig, subsequent research and scholarship confirm that Schliemann was correct in his quest to find the City of Troy (ฮคฯฮฟฮฏฮฑ also called ฮŠฮปฮนฮฟฮฝ from the Hittie๐’†ณ๐’Œท๐’‹ซ๐’Š’๐’„ฟ๐’Šญ and pronounced probably as Wiluลกa) and the besieged settlement of the epic Iliad was not just the stuff of legends, contrary to prevailing contemporary opinion. Investigating a wall of the supposed palace, Schliemann immediately dismissed the crew for a lunch-break to prise out the cache himself—with the assistance of his wife, Sophia—later criticised for being adorned with the “Jewels of Helen.” Not given permission by the Ottoman Empire to remove the gold, Schliemann smuggled the find out of Anatolia where it ended up being displayed in a museum in Berlin. The treasure was in turn plundered during the Red Army’s Battle of Berlin—with the Soviet Union denying it had taken such war trophies, until 1994 when the Pushkin Museum in Moscow owed that it had the Trojan gold.

Friday 26 April 2024

villa of the papyri (11. 516)

Using a dual process of optical coherence tomography and infrared hyperspectral imaging to eke out characters from carbonised scrolls housed in Herculaneum and preserved after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD but inaccessible until recently with the aid of artificial intelligence, researchers have been able to more accurately locate the burial place of Plato, student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, in the Academy, destroyed by Roman general Sulla in 86 BC, as well as a previously unknown account of the philosopher’s last days that relates how he found the night’s entertainment, a Thracian musician’s performance, rather grating. We wonder what else might be digitally unwrapped from this trove kept in what’s regarded as one, the site originally designated Villa Suburbana either residence of Lucious Calpurnius Piso Caesonius—the father-in-law of Julius Caesar or the purported author himself, Epicurean Philodemus of Gadara, of the most luxurious and with a well-apportioned library in the Roman world.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

chandax (11. 404)

Whilst we had encountered in older texts the island metonymically the island referred to as Kandy, Candia, Kandiye or Candy we did not realise that this exonym and demonym had come from the above fortification that Arab mercantile traders from al-Andalus built during the Cretan Emirate period called ุฑุจุถ ุงู„ุฎู†ุฏู‚ (rabแธ al-แธซandaq, “Castle in the Moat,” subsequently Hellenised as ฮงฮฌฮฝฮดฮฑฮพ then Latinised as the above) not far from the Bronze Age archaeological site of Knossos. The Islamic outpost in the Mediterranean, falling on this day in 961 with the Byzantine reconquest of the Aegean, under the leadership of General Nikephoros II Phokas—later emperor—rebranding the main settlement as ฮœฮตฮณฮฌฮปฮฟ ฮšฮฌฯƒฯ„ฯฮฟ (Megalo Kastro, “Big Castle”). The modern place name of Herakleion or Iraklion (ฮ—ฯฮฌฮบฮปฮตฮนฮฟฮฝ) is a nineteenth century popular naming conceit after the sunken Port of Hercules at the mouth of the Nile in Egypt once unified under the Kingdom of Greece after a period of independence. The lost ancient namesake city of Heracleion, also called Thonis near Alexandria, was not itself rediscovered under six metres of water until 2009.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

omero nel baltico (11. 401)

Via the New Shelton wet/dry, we are directed towards an interesting academic speculation from amateur historian Felice Vinci who transposes the epic, decade-long, decade-delayed homecoming of Odysseus (see previously here and here) from the Mediterranean to the higher climes of the Baltic Seas. Positing that conditions during the Holocene Climate Optimum during the time of the Trojan War made northern Europe more like Greece, the main battleground was on the plains of Finland, with Circe’s Isle Jan Mayen Island, the Sirens and Cyclops on the Norwegian coast, shipbuilding Aetolian Pylene the German town of Plรถn and Thebes Stockholm. Though many of the toponyms in Homer’s poem are frustratingly nondescript (most believed that Troy was legendary until it was discovered) and malleable, like the Matter of Britain or Charlemagne’s heritage claimed by many peoples, Vinci’s theory is an intriguing idea but does not seem particularly convincing or rigorous and follows a tradition of projection and syncretism. Much more at the links above.


one year agoThe Jaywalker (1956), the Great Michigan Pizza Funeral (1973), more needful punctuation plus assorted links to revisit

two years ago: the Iron Curtain (1946), a cinematic preview in retrospect plus translation choices for a global product

three years ago: ultracrepidarian, photographer AL Schafer plus another MST3K classic

four years ago: assorted links to revisit, Sinclair Computers (1981) plus Disney’s back catalogue

five years ago: artist Gunta Slรถlzl, parcours, Florida Man plus the Odyssey as a cruise itinerary

Monday 29 January 2024

interlocutors (11. 304)

We enjoyed this cross-posting from Aeon and Epochรฉ Magazine in this short essay, enhanced by a cacophonous accompaniment and archival footage by John C Brady on the Socratic dialogue Gorgias, caputured by Plato in 380 BCE (prejudiced against the title figure for promoting pro-democratic, populist sentiment as not a serious thinker, despite the itinerant guru’s acknowledged influence and innovation and outliving everyone at the dinner party, dying aged one-hundred and eight), depicting a symposium by a small group of invited sophists with the debate attempting to uncover the definition of rhetoric and lay bare the flaws in oration and persuasion, positing that rhetoric is not a skill but rather a knack for gratification, re-enforcement and flattery, advancing belief without underlying knowledge.

Saturday 27 January 2024

pasiphaรซ (11. 300)

The retrograde satellite Jovian discovered on this day (by re-examining older plates for confirmation) in 1908 by Belgium-British astronomer Philibert Jacques Melotte was later awarded with the namesake of the above mythological figure (known until 1975 as Jupiter VIII), Cretan co-regnant and mother of the Minotaur after Daedalus designed a hollow cow for her compliance after being cursed by Poseidon to become besotted with the bull as her husband Minos failed to make the prescribed sacrifices. She really got a bad rap considering that it was her husband’s refusal to slain the finest specimen in order to propitiate the gods and according to some versions of the legend, hid the handiwork of Daedalus and Icarus until they could complete their wax wings. Astronomers believe that the small moon is a captured asteroid.

Thursday 25 January 2024

anapodoton (11. 293)

From the Greek แผ€ฮฝฮฑฮฝฯ„ฮฑฯ€ฯŒฮดฮฟฯ„ฮฟฯ‚ for “I give back,” the ellipsis refers to a rhetorical device by which the gist of a saying is supported by its subordinate clause without mentioning it, like if the mountain won’t come to the prophet, when in Rome, a bird in the hand, if the shoe fits or when the cat’s away. As with the spoonerism I heard once and since incorporated “paying Peter to rob Paul,” I thought the former idiom (fabricated by Francis Bacon) was “Let the mountain come to Mohammed”—an anacoluthon, a disruptive thought expressed in reported speech by my favoured em-dash to mark the divergence—and is entirely missing the intention and making a postproverbial or preverb. The study of such maxims and their variants, dating back to Aristotle’s collections, is called paremiology, classing them into the categories of comparison, interrogation, their above misuse and metaphorical or allusory.

Saturday 30 December 2023

gromatici (11. 228)

A committed flaneur and a bit obsessed with getting my steps in myself, we were pleased to learn of the bematist-set—those specialist ฮฒฮทฮผฮฑฯ„ฮนฯƒฯ„ฮฑฮฏ employed in Ancient Egypt and Greece—whom for one assignment at least proved to have accurately measured the distances crossed by the army of Alexander the Great—with such precision, it was said that they gauged their paces with an early odometer, suggested by Pliny the Elder and Hero of Alexandria, though no direct evidence exists. Later on the philosopher and polymath, with the assistance of a bematist, Eratosthenes pretty closely calculated the circumference of the Earth around 240 BCE. The first application—the above title—of this skill however augmented, was in land surveyors and tax assessors, possibly also with instrumentation aid and a professional class endorsed by attendant religious officers.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

you’re going the wrong way—dammit—the bow’s underwater (11. 183)

As our faithful chronicler informs, the Irwin Allen disaster drama based on the eponymous novel by Paul Gallico from three years prior and capitalising on a spate of star-studded survival misadventures of the decade, like Airport and The Towering Inferno, had its debut in the US on this day in 1972. The acclaimed and high-grossing film featuring the talents of Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall and Gene Hackman follows the passengers and crew of the SS Poseidon on its final voyage during New Year’s from New York City to Athens, where it will be decommissioned and scrapped. An undersea quake in the Aegean triggers a tsunami and the ship is capsized and turned upside down. Scored by conductor John Williams, the performance “The Morning After” (garnering an Oscar for best original song) became a hit single, prompting an album of the soundtrack to be released.


one year ago: a modernist sanctuary plus more advances in fusion technology

two years ago: assorted links to revisit, the satellite Uhuru, the Human League plus Tilda Swinton as libraries

three years ago: your daily demon: Caim, vaccines and alcohol don’t mix, more Breton saints plus a daytrip to Bedheim

four years ago: Authority is a Necessary Evil, more words of the year, the Heritage Trust and Stonehenge, another UK General Election plus the etymology of Antwerp

five years ago: Persons of the Year, Beyoncรฉ as HTTP codes, an auto graveyard plus a computerised sneaker

Saturday 8 July 2023

jupiter xv (10. 866)

Imaged for the first time on this day in 1979 by the Voyager 2 probe, the smallest inner moon of Jupiter responsible for maintaining the integrity of its rings, composed primarily scientists believe of ejecta from meteorite impacts on the satellite, Adrastea was the first object discovered by a spacecraft rather than observations from a terrestrial telescope. In response to this discovery, researchers reviewed footage from months earlier taken by companion probe Voyager I and found two additional moons, Thebe and Metis. The object, which little is known about other than its lumpy shape and small size (around fourteen meters in circumference), is named, like others in this planetary constellation, after Zeus’ mythological foster family, charged with protecting him from Cronus, after a Cretan nymph of Mount Ida whose name means ‘inevitable fate’ later identified with the epithet Nemesis.

Thursday 15 June 2023

danaรซ (10. 809)

Seriously damaged during an act of vandalism on this day in 1985 in its home at the Hermitage in St Petersburg but fully brought back after over a decade of careful restoration, the work by Rembrandt (previously) features a life-sized depiction of the mother of Perseus, presumably when Zeus transformed “himself into a shower of gold and visited her—visited her and loved her,” the Argive princess locked away in resplendent but isolating chamber with no entrance or egress, save a skylight, to prevent a prophesy delivered to her father King Acrisius that his grandson would kill him, ultimately unable to thwart his fate when at a homecoming games celebrated for the demigod’s triumphs, he accidentally strikes Acrisius in the head when throwing a discus. Originally executed in 1536, the artist undertook some major revisions to the monumental piece, scaling down the canvas to make it more marketable, too big for all but the grandest of settings at two-and-a-half by three metres, and changing the face from its original model’s likeness, Saskia van Uylenburgh, his wife, to that of Geertje Dircx, his son’s caretaker and mistress.

Thursday 8 June 2023

seรฑor wences (10. 793)

Never having occurred to us beforehand, we were delighted to learn (among other things) of the unusual etymology of the patently unusual—though at least for us, taken for granted—word ventriloquism, the first recorded use in the debunking volume by Reginald Scot The Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584 from this latest episode of the podcast The History of English: The Spoken History of a Global Language (previously), as a Latinate version of the Greek term for a gastomancer (ฮตฮณฮณฮฑฯƒฯ„ฯฮนฮผฯ…ฮธฮฏฮฑ). Attempting to dispel the superstitious belief that stomach grumblings (see also) were the voices of the departed relaying messages to the living, interpreted by said ventriloquist (literally belly-speak)—the most famous example being the Pythia or Pythoness, the high priestesses of the Oracle at Delphi, Scot tried to persuade his readers with the more rational explanation of digestion, hunger or indigestion and not to heed these adepts who claimed the ability to interpret these noises, in line with trying to offer mundane reasons for other supernatural occurrences. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century, however, that the term for one sort of trickery began referring to entertainment and the ability to “throw one’s voice.” Much more at the links above. S’alright? S’right.

Sunday 28 May 2023

path of totality (10. 774)

Hailed by Isaac Asimov and others as the singular advent of science though some doubts persist to the accuracy of the claims of having forecasted the event in advance and what method was used, the 585 BC solar eclipse over Anatolia predicted by Thales of Miletus (the first philosopher to have broke with the tradition of mythology as a explanation for the state of the Cosmos, used deductive reasoning, proposed navigating by the stars and credited with the maxim “Know Thyself” as well as being a shrewd entrepreneur, having bought up all the olive presses in his archontes ahead of what was a very good harvest) that occurred on this day is a cardinal date used for triangulating other historical events, and, if true, is the earliest instance known of such an advanced vaticination. The announced event happened during a skirmish in the protracted war between the Medes and the Lydians, under the leadership of Cyaxares and Alyattes respectively, at Halys—the river bordering the two kingdoms, with the belligerents taking it as an omen to call a truce, though Miletus had no dog in this fight. Though astronomical knowledge at this point in history was not sufficiently advanced to know that the shadow of the Moon caused eclipses (not an avowed flat-earther, he provisionally believed that the continents floated on an infinite ocean under the dome of the firmament until a better idea came along)—that would come a century later—it is speculated that Miletus had noticed patterns in the periodicity, known to the Babylonians and programmed into the Antikythera Mechanism.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

the judgment of paris (10. 763)

Aptly alluding to the myth of a scorned guest and chaos agent, Eris, the goddess of Discord—who was not invited to the marriage ceremony of Greek hero Peleus and sea nymph Thetis and tossed a golden apple into the wedding party to be awarded to the fairest, a bone of contention that sparked the Trojan War, an international jury of wine experts convened in the French capital on this day in 1976 to carry out a blind-tasting—ultimately rating varieties of Napa Valley wines as superior to the historically more esteemed French vineyards. The results of course sparked controversy—top honours going to a 1973 chardonnay from Chรขteau Montelena and a cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars whereas the opposite outcome was rather a foregone conclusion, and marked a pivotal moment in the California industry (see previously) with a follow up match in 2006 on the event’s thirtieth anniversary that re-certified the standings.

Sunday 14 May 2023

hey erete (10. 741)

Via thm, we enjoyed exploring this list—some familiar, some forgotten and others new to us—of Ancient Greek terms that should be reintroduced into common-parlance and we’d all experience ฮตแฝฮดฮฑฮนฮผฮฟฮฝฮฏฮฑ (eudaimonia—that is, human flourishing and the highest common good) for re-incorporating these virtues in social-circles. Phronesis (ฯ†ฯฯŒฮฝฮทฯƒแฟฯ‚) as prudence, the practical application of sound judgment and experience and aidos (ฮ‘แผฐฮดฯŽฯ‚)—the antidote to the more commonplace hubris in this goddess of shame, modesty and humility, this personification of a trait, a daughter of the titan Prometheus and was the last to depart Earth at the end of the Golden Age and the middle way to avoid the extremes of pride and timidity. Case in point, the article also includes the etymology and pathology of particularly vexing ailment called homesickness, diagnosed and coined in the seventeenth century by a Swiss medical student to describe the separation anxieties that mercenary countrymen were experiencing (it becoming so grave that a temporary stay was put on cowbells and other sounds that would remind conscripts in foreign lands of home, triggering the condition) from the Homeric trope for nautical homecoming fraught with challenge and temptation, nostos—ฮฝฯŒฯƒฯ„ฮฟฯ‚, from the Odyssey, and giving us the condition of nostalgia. Much more at the links above.

Sunday 26 March 2023

9x9 (10. 635)

concrete sign: Pope Francis returns marble fragments held by the Vatican Museum to the Parthenon

house of thunder: the everlasting lightning storm over Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo 

queen street: a personal view of the prettiest thoroughfare in Ontario, in Niagara-on-the-Lake plus assorted links to visit 

april showers bring may flowers: the joyful floral illustrations of Iancu Barbฤƒrasฤƒ  

thinking outside of the box: innovations in pizza 

beauty paget: the varied career and roles of Miss Deborah Paget  

the theory of mediatization: press coverage of pseudo-events, like press-conferences and political rallies, has increased significantly while journalistic rigour in actual reporting (see also) has stagnated—via the New Shelton wet/dry  

master class: Finland offering a crash course in happiness, securing the title for six years in a row  

age-appropriate: Florida principal forced to resign after including Michelangelo’s David in middle schooler’s art curriculum without prior parental approval—see also

Sunday 19 March 2023

๐™‚๐˜๐˜ฒ (10. 622)

Finally returning to the excavations and adventures of his academic years after serving as a reporter and secret agent in the Balkans for the Manchester Guardian and a long stint as the keeper of the curiosities for the Ashmolean of Oxford, organising the collection into a museum with many restrictions for conducting archeological digs imposed by the Ottoman Empire removed with the establishment of the Cretan Republic, Arthur John Evans (see previously) and crew began exploring a flower-covered hill in the central part of the island on this day in 1900. Over the course of three years, albeit with some creative liberties (see above), Evans discovered the Minoan civilisation, so named for the maze-like quality of the Palace of Knossos—which was a series of a thousand cells for artisanal work, storage and food processing—that invoked the myth of King Minos and the captive Minotaur.

Sunday 12 March 2023

truman doctrine (10. 607)

Introduced to the US Congress on this day in 1947—prompted by crises in Greece, a violent uprising by the national Communist party partially funded by neighbouring Yugoslavia and Tรผrkiye, under pressure from the Soviet Union to allow its ships passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and the Long Telegram by George F Kennan of the previous year—President Harry S Truman, with the assistance of Secretary of State George Marshall (previously) and undersecretary Dean Acheson, outlining his “domino theory” in grave terms, secured Republican buy-in and ensured funding for his foreign policy objectives. In an address before a joint session of Congress which was generally well-received by the public, Truman said, “I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.” Couched in the context of the broader Cold War, the expansive and highly publicised commitment of the Truman Doctrine established precedent for the next four decades of siding with anticommunist forces and regimes all over the world no matter how antithetical and opposed they were to the democratic image that America wanted to promote and form military alliances against the USSR and confederates.